Toyota rolls out the new Venza – Wheels.ca

5 Mar 2015 | Author: | Comments Off on Toyota rolls out the new Venza – Wheels.ca

Toyota rolls out the new Venza

PITTSBURGH–According to Toyota, its new Venza is not a car, station wagon, or SUV.

Instead, the company says its latest unibody utility vehicle has no direct competitors in the market #8230; It is a new kind of vehicle #8230; a segment buster.

Then Toyota admits that in developing the Venza, it looked at the sport-utility vehicle and car segments and took the best from both. Essentially, it formulated the standard crossover-utility-vehicle equation that companies from Audi to VW have already applied.

So while the Venza looks, smells and feels like a CUV, Toyota wants new-car buyers to call it a car plus.

Marketing semantics aside, owners of the first-generation Highlander (a vehicle that between 2001 and 2007 helped establish the term crossover as part of the English lexicon) will no doubt recognize the Camry-based Venza for what it really is: a direct competitor to five-passenger CUVs such as the Ford Edge, Honda CR-V, Mazda CX-7, Nissan Murano and VW Tiguan.

Just as the original Highlander filled a gap between the compact Toyota RAV4 and the larger 4Runner, in Toyota#039;s current CUV lineup, the Venza slots in just underneath today#039;s second-generation Highlander. (Enlarged last year, the Highlander can seat up to seven and now competes against larger crossovers like the Honda Pilot and Mazda CX-9 among many others.)

On sale in early January 2009, the Venza will be available with front- or all-wheel drive, and four- or six-cylinder engines. A new six-speed automatic is the sole transmission.

So now that you have the lowdown on what the Venza really is (i.e. a crossover), how does it stack up in today#039;s super-competitive CUV segment?

For now, Toyota is promising a base model FWD four-cylinder Venza that will start at under $30,000.

That#039;s more than the smaller $27,575 Tiguan and $27,790 CR-V, but in line with the sportier $29,995 CX-7. Loaded AWD V6 Venzas should be nearer to the $40,000 mark – way less than Nissan#039;s top-line $47,498 Murano LE AWD.

The Venza#039;s powerplants and fuel economy are also fairly de rigueur for this class.

Its four is a 2.7-litre 182 hp unit also found in other Toyotas. As is the available 3.5-litre V6, which boosts horsepower up to 268. Towing capabilities range from 1,133 kg with the four-cylinder engine to 1,587 kg with the V6 Venza (just like the 2001-07 Highlander).

Fuel consumption ratings are as low as 10.6 L/100 km in the city, and 6.8 L on the highway for a FWD four-banger Venza, which puts it on par with a CR-V. Models with a V6 sip at a rate of 11.0 L in the city and 6.8 L on the highway, making it a bit better than a V6 Murano.

Toyota is making a big deal out of the Venza#039;s three rear seats, especially rear legroom.

They split 60/40, and can recline up to 14 degrees from the vertical. Legroom at 993 mm is generous. But an Edge has 13 mm more.

One thing you will notice is the Venza#039;s wide, low stance and large wheels. It doesn#039;t sit tall, as if anxious to get dirty in a mud bog. The impression Toyota wants to leave is that the Venza will drive even more car-like than other CUVs.

In this regard, the Venza does stand out. During our brief drive in the early snow of western Pennsylvania, the way the Venza goes down the road is quite impressive.

We#039;ve agreed to a publication embargo on driving impressions requested by Toyota – so sorry, I can#039;t tell you the why or how impressive the Venza is to drive. But if you can imagine a blend between the overt sportiness of a CX-7 and the more relaxed nature of an Edge, you#039;re pretty close.

Though it#039;s less of a segment buster than Toyota wants you to believe, the Venza does bring some fresh interior ideas to the CUV class, as well as Toyota#039;s lineup.

The new vehicle obviously benefits from a shared development with the new Lexus RX luxury crossover (set to debut at the Los Angeles Auto Show next month). In fact, the Venza comes with what is arguably the most refined, well thought out and upscale interior Toyota has ever offered.

First off, for easier access – and fewer dry cleaning bills from dirtied pant legs – Toyota worked hard to make the Venza#039;s rocker panels as low as a Camry.

The vehicle#039;s dash mounted gear shifter is also no gimmick. It#039;s in direct alignment with the natural arc of where a driver#039;s right hand falls from the wheel. It quickly becomes natural and intuitive to use in manual shift mode – it#039;s one of those why hasn#039;t anyone else done this before? epiphanies.

Honda, which currently has its sea of buttons theme in various Honda and Acura models, needs to look at the Venza#039;s centre stack design, which it tilted forwarded for better sight lines and access. Audio, heating and ventilation controls have all been logically separated, with buttons getting their own unique shapes.

Fit and finish is exemplary, as is the use of different materials throughout the Venza#039;s interior.

Venza#039;s exterior styling is new for Toyota, and it#039;s a look the company says will set the design direction for future models. Based on the Toyota FT-SX concept car unveiled at the 2005 Detroit Auto Show, the new vehicle moves away from the automaker#039;s sucking fish look (see RAV4, Highlander).

Toyota said Venza#039;s exterior was inspired from architecture. Maybe. Whoever designed the Edge over at Ford, though, deserves some credit as well.

Whatever you think of its looks, the Venza could add to Toyota#039;s sales successes in this country.

While other automakers are crying the blues, September marked Toyota Canada#039;s ninth record-selling month in a row: up 13.5 per cent to 18,062.

Brand new products like the Venza traditionally do well in new-car showrooms. So as a fresh entry right down the middle of the CUV market, it#039;s hard not to think that it won#039;t steal a few RAV4 or Highlander sales.

It#039;s not characteristic for Toyota to go rogue and break any moulds. If anything, the low, wide, stylish and refined Venza represents a slow evolution back to cars from rugged utilitarian vehicles.

Just don#039;t call it a crossover.

Travel was provided to freelance writer John LeBlanc by the auto maker editors@straight-six.com

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